By Bakani Ngulani, founder and CEO of BN Business Solutions, an accounting, taxation and related compliance firm dedicated to SMEs.
The headache of waking up one day only to find out your company does not exist is one that can be easily avoided.
Many small business owners might not be aware that the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC); formerly known as CIPRO issued a notice on December 12, 2017, via their website stating that certain companies who had failed to submit annual returns to CIPC as is required by the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (the “Act”) would face deregistration on February 2, 2018. This applies across the board with regards to all entities registered with the CIPC be it private, external, incorporated or public companies as well as not for profit organisations and close corporations.
On the anniversary of every company, it is required to file annual returns accompanied by annual financial statements to confirm that the entity is still conducting business and to ensure that the CIPC has the latest information of all registered entities in the nation. Annual returns are filed electronically through the user-friendly CIPC eServices website where payment is deducted from a user’s preloaded account. A proof of submission in the form of an annual returns certificate is emailed to the entity in question.
When annual returns are due, the CIPC sends out notices through the entity’s registered details via SMS, email or registered address notifying the directors of their obligation to file annual returns. Should there be no response after two or more consecutive missed returns the CIPC proceeds to issue a notice of deregistration and the status of the entity then becomes “Deregistration Process” giving the directors a chance to file outstanding returns. If this is not remedied the company is then placed under “AR Final Deregistered” meaning it has been struck off the register.
Fortunately, recent changes in the CIPC issued company registration documents now reflect a status of the entity based on filling of the annual returns i.e. in business, deregistration process or AR final deregistration hence business owners may check by obtaining a disclosure certificate from the CIPC website. This status is also linked to the South African Revenue Authority (SARS) and the CSD hence affecting the overall entities compliance across all three.
The consequences of deregistration due to non-compliance
The following are consequences of deregistration and affect both the entity and other entities it deals
with; though the below is not exhaustive, it provides a preview of how serious this matter is:
Is there life after deregistering?
An entity deregistered due to non-compliance may be re-instated only if one or more of the following conditions are met as stated on the CIPC website:
1. The company or close corporation was in business at the time of deregistration (Sufficient documentary evidence in the form of bank statements for a period of six months before and six months after deregistration are required);
2. Immovable property is registered in the name of the deregistered business; or
3. The court issued an order re-instating the company or close corporation. In addition to meeting one of these conditions, supporting documents have to be submitted to support the re-instatement application. These can be found on the CIPC website and will be covered in a separate article.
What to do now?
Deregistration may come as a shock to many business owners as they may be sitting with company documents yet their company has been deregistered. The CIPC is obliged to notify entities of the above and has duly done so by communication through registered details and publishing a list of companies under through notices and gazettes. The sad reality is not many business owners are aware of their obligation mostly due to ignorance. Upon initial registration, the CIPC issues this information with the company registration document but filled with excitement of owning a company people hardly read or remember this a year later. In some cases, people purchase shelf companies and don’t fully update the details or directors do not notify CIPC of changes in registered details hence the CIPC cannot get a hold of them.
The list of companies being deregistered on 2 February 2018 is currently available on the CIPC website. The CIPC has made an effort to categorise these entities as private, external, incorporated or public companies as well as not for profit organisations and close corporations.
Though compliance is a cost to the business, non-compliance is more expensive as it costs more to re-instate a company then to file the returns timely.